Salzburg Christmas market should definitely make your list of European Christmas markets worth exploring. From great food to gorgeous crafts, there’s so much to see and try!
2021 update: Christmas markets are back on this year! I’ve confirmed that the Salzburg Christmas market is open. Enjoy!!
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Salzburg is a great destination year-round: it’s beautiful, it’s packed with history, and is really walkable. But every December it transforms itself into a Christmas capital! Here’s what you need to know for a visit to the Salzburg Christmas market.
As you plan, one thing worth noting when you plan is that there are more than one Christmas market in most larger cities. Many have one central market as well as several smaller ones dotted throughout.
No trip to a European Christmas market is complete without gluhwein! The recipe for this hot mulled wine differs from booth to booth, so you probably need to get a few cups over the course of your exploring.
Salzburg’s biggest market has about 100 booths spread over two adjacent plaza. They’re shuffled together, so take your time to look around a bunch before making any big purchases. Plus, isn’t that half the fun to take in all the gorgeous creations and fun local products with gluhwein in hand?
Depending on the region/nation/city, there are different local specialties worth checking out. The most unique offering I saw at the Salzburg Christmas market was intricately painted eggs to hang on trees! These eggshells are hollowed out through a tiny hole and decorated intricately with either paint or gluing on tiny beads. The craftsmanship on these is crazy! I bought several and then hand-carried them on the rest of our travels, in an attempt to keep them from breaking. But I managed, and they were the first ornaments on our tree this year.
Germany and Austria both specialize in a particular style of wooden creche, or nativity scene, which reminds me of a set we had growing up. They’re usually 5-inch tall characters, realistically carved and lightly painted. You can buy each piece individually for a customized scene, adding to it every time you come to a Christmas market!
Another favorite was two-dimensional wooden creations, both intricately cut ornaments and displays as wells as painted, burned designs.
There are tons of wool booths, offering hats, scarves, socks, and everything else! I even saw a few booths selling wool clogs if your feet get cold.
I found an Airbnb 100 yards from the entrance to the Christkindlemarkt in the Altstadt, or old town, and it was the perfect location! We stayed in the heart of the Aldstadt in a building that had been around since the 1300’s. I’d definitely recommend it for the location alone, but the building was very cool as well.
It’s worth seeking out some of the smaller Christmas markets. Aside from being less crowded, they tend to have booths with more unique creations and sometimes better prices. I liked the one next to the Mirabell Palace and one near Sternbrau Arcade.
Food & Drink
Food-wise, the biggest priority is pretzels. Austrian pretzels are MASSIVE and hearty – we ate pretzels for breakfast most days! My favorite was the onion, bacon cheese pretzel – savory and perfect, and they’ll warm it up for you! We both liked the savory better than the sweet options – while I love a good cinnamon-sugar pretzel, the sweet ones didn’t have that great skin you want on a pretzel. It felt a bit like eating bread twisted in pretzel shape on the sweet ones.
There are also great sweets at the Salzburg Christmas markets. Traditional iced cookies with cute scenes or messages come with strings to hang on your Christmas tree. Chocolate covered fruit is a big thing, and delish. Another local specialty is marshmallow swirled into a cannoli-style pastry case or an ice cream cone and dipped in chocolate. This isn’t your average sitting-in-a-bag-on-the-shelf marshmallow either: it’s pillowy, almost wet but not quite, like eating a sweet cloud.
The drinks are endless here too. Beyond gluhwein, there’s also plenty of beer available and punches (punsch). The most traditional flavor here appears to be orange, but there are usually several on offer. If you need a break from the booze, there’s always a few on offer that are ‘alkoholfrei,’ so look for that for the kiddos!
Many of the bigger booths also serve the gluhwein and punch in reusable cups; you pay 3€ extra for the first one, trade in your cup each time, and at the end return it to get your deposit back! Many also offer 1€ back if you return the beer glass after drinking.
I loved the Salzburg Christmas markets and highly recommend it! Have you been to Christmas markets in Europe? I’ll be sharing – and visiting – several more in the next month, so follow along on Instagram as I explore them all December long!